Solvan Naim made a web series about one of his dogs, called “It’s Bruno!” currently available on Netflix. It is the Bushwick creative’s most remarkable project yet.
The web series details the daily life of a dog-obsessed resident in Bushwick (and bordering Ridgewood) named Malcolm. Naim plays Malcom and describes the role as an exaggerated version of himself. Malcolm decorates his exposed brick apartment with cheap pop art canvases of the puggle pog, whom the show is named after. He fills his fridge with tupperware containers of elaborately prepared dog food and conducts most social activity at NYC Pet, the recently-opened animal food store on Knickerbocker Avenue.
The series was nominated for outstanding short-form comedy Emmy last month. It will compete there against Nick Hornby’s miniature marriage comedy and a “Broad City” online spin-off called “Hack Into Broad City,” and others.
Naim started out as a rapper, who moved to Bushwick from Washington Heights at the age of 18. He still raps, in fact, he self-released a debut album as Slick Naim earlier this year. More success came from directing. A feature-length called called “Full Circle” played at the Queens World Film Festival. A short called “Stanhope” won an award sponsored by NBCUniversal and he also began directing television, scoring gigs on episodes of “The Get Down,” and “Snowfall,” where Naim befriended director John Singleton, who died earlier this year.
“I wanted to make my version of a classic New York comedy,” Naim detailed the pitch for his latest project. “Like ‘Seinfeld,’ but with dogs and in the ‘hood.”
In a style similar to “Seinfeld,” the show feels something like the canned autobiography of its creator. A conversation Naim remembers having with an old man and his dog while walking Bruno becomes an elaborate bit at the end of its first episode. Another bit, which involves Malcolm arguing with a neighbor about the name of his dog, came from something Naim remembers a friend saying once.
His cast of characters are stressed and often look agitated, even when joking around. Naim calls it a comedy with social undertones and concern for everyday struggles. In the eight short episodes, Malcolm falls in love twice, a pace Jerry Seinfeld would understand. The two girlfriends actually stare each other off in one of the episodes. “She’s been trying to seduce me and steal my dog Bruno for the longest,” Malcolm says of one of them.
“It’s Bruno!” is less serious than another local web series highlighting gentrification, “Somewhere In Bushwick.” Instead it showcases the area in broad comedic strokes. It’s interesting to see where they land. In one episode, Bruno becomes a model for a dog food product. But the product is not received well.
“To say that the show is low stakes is an understatement,” writes one critic for the Deicider. This isn’t a bad thing. Watching “It’s Bruno!” feels like watching a neighbor’s Instagram story and presents slightly askew portraits of nearby streets. A particular stretch of Cornelia Street, near the local grocery store Billy’s, appears important to the characters and story, coming back to the red of old bricks.
It’s a neighborhood that’s disappearing and now Netflix will store a memory of it. “I’ve gotten kicked out of apartments by landlords, paid off to leave so he could raise the rent by ridiculous amounts,” Naim tells Bushwick Daily of gentrifying Bushwick. “People from Middle America are moving in…I’ve seen the transformation.”
Watch the first episode here.
Images courtesy of “It’s Bruno!”
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